A huge part of our Why Choose Aspen mantra comes down to the people on our team. We strive to be one of the best UK IT companies. We know that it is our people, not just our products, that will help us reach this goal.
Here we have Karen Morrice, our Customer Success Manager, talking about life, the IT industry and what she has learned over the lockdown years.
What were you doing prior to joining Aspen Solutions?
I had been living in South Africa for 40 years and I took early retirement at the age of 27 to raise our two boys. I was at home for 20 years until devastatingly, my husband passed away suddenly in June 2018. After that, I stepped into our family business with no experience but with a need to ensure that firstly, we ensured our loyal customers retained the level of service they had come to expect from us over the years, that the 20 people we had employed still retained their livelihood and that from a family perspective, I provided for us being pivoted to the head of our home and that Douglas’s legacy continued in an industry in which he was highly respected.
As I say, I stepped into the role with no experience of the industry and not having worked for 20 years but I found that I had a real, intuitive feel for running my own business and I steered us through a crumbling South African economy and through COVID-19. At times it almost brought me to my knees but it was also extremely empowering. It is a very male dominated industry and I think I surprised a few of our competitors being a female with no experience, taking over a business that had been run by a man who knew the industry inside and out, and yet I powered through and when many similar SME’s were sadly being forced to close their doors, we remained firmly standing. After a whirlwind four years, I felt it was time to hand over the reins of the business to our eldest Son, and to return to my Scottish roots.
It was a massive move culturally to return to the UK, it’s been quite daunting but I’m happy to embrace it and I can see that Aspen Solutions are very keen to promote personal growth so we’re a perfect match. The growth I’ve experienced in the past four years both from a personal and business perspective has been absolutely huge. Even at the ripe old age of (almost) 51, you’re still able to learn and develop. The team at Aspen Solutions are embracing that and that’s very positive.
How did you come to work at Aspen Solutions?
When I came back here, I had absolutely zero experience in the business sector in the UK – I haven’t lived here since I was 10 years old. I met with Paul and Vincent for them to give me some pointers because Aspen Solutions is a family run business so there was a commonality there immediately. The prospect of coming to work for them came up during this conversation and then I met with Mhairi Beeby, Head of Commercial, who is an absolute dynamo. They described her as a “force of nature” and she absolutely is. After I met with her it was literally a no-brainer. I instantly felt there would be great synergy between us, and the fact that even though on paper I possibly wasn’t a good fit, they were willing to look at the bigger picture, recognise that I may be able to bring something unique to the table within their business and their company values resonated hugely with me. I felt they almost mirrored my own and I knew they were employers I would be in safe hands with. The fact that they are very happy to promote strong female leadership within the company was something that I found very attractive. I’ve been on board for the past two weeks. They are a great team of people who have all warmly welcomed me and it’s a pleasure to go into the office each day. The customer is genuinely the heartbeat of the business which again resonates, there is a very different dynamic being part of a family business, you are very much an integral part of their team, at times wearing different hats, being open to that, and ultimately all working towards the end objective of customer satisfaction and I find that personal element a very fulfilling one.
What excites you about your role with Aspen Solutions?
It’s always going to be customer based for me. Prior to running my own business, I worked in a sales environment and working with people has been something I’ve enjoyed and that I felt I was good at. At the moment I’m familiarising myself with the company culture and their processes. I love what I do because it’s so varied. Every day is a school day at the moment and I’m quite enjoying the challenge of that too. Although I’ve been involved with the IT industry over the past four years, Aspen Solution’s product offering is something that is completely foreign to me, so I’m very excited about learning the ins and outs and honing my skills as such. It’s a completely different work environment to what I’ve been used to. I’m enjoying the new challenge even though I’m sure I’m testing the patience of some of my colleagues with my constant questions!
What does a typical day at Aspen look like for you?
I am still brand new to Aspen with only two weeks under my belt and so far I have been Mhairi’s shadow, seeing what her day involves and how I can relieve some of her pressure. I’m delighted for her to mentor me and hopefully I soak up even a fraction of her knowledge. I’ve been familiarising myself with various departments, from IT to admin to sales. The support has been amazing, it really has. They are a tremendous bunch of people and very keen to share their knowledge with me.
What did you learn about yourself over the 2 years of lockdowns?
I think COVID was a global humbler. We all took a step back and took a deep breath. I think that was the thing about COVID in lockdown that I actually quite enjoyed and embraced because you were literally able to stop and take a breath and restock, re-evaluate. I think we all did. We all looked at various aspects of our lives, I moved continents after having time for reflection. I would say from a business perspective I learned that I had to be very adaptable. As a small business it was sink or swim. We had to apply for a special services permit in South Africa to be able to operate at all and we got involved with PPE which was something we had never done previously in a bid to generate turnover when our “normal” way of operating was seriously compromised. We went back to grass roots levels – pulling our own stock, boxing it, putting it in our personal vehicles and delivering it to the client. We did whatever it took to keep our business afloat.
You had to be able to move with change, be adaptable, otherwise you simply wouldn’t survive. I’m not good with change so from that perspective as well, I realised that I had to go with change, I had to be okay with it. There was no control so you had to let go, adopt the attitude of what will be will be, or it could have been very detrimental. Being able to adapt to change and embrace versatility from a business and personal perspective is the biggest lesson I learned during lockdown. We all realised that human connection is something that we need desperately. It made us re-evaluate our work-life balance as we had at times lost touch of connection with our families – those were things that I thought were actually very positive things about COVID. We got back to basics, realised what was important to us and I’ve taken that forward with me. It revolutionised the workplace because as an employer, people could work from home. We now didn’t all have to be office based. I think that was huge and has changed the workforce globally for evermore. I’m always looking at the glass being half-full rather than empty and I think I’d rather take the positives from lockdown other than the negatives. It brought me here to this second chapter in my life.